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6 Mins

Stress management tips

October 30, 2023
Alexandra Hopkins

Feeling stressed from time to time is normal and nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone gets stressed, regardless of their gender, background or age; in a UK-wide survey, 74% of people said that stress made them feel overwhelmed or unable to cope. However, just because stress is common doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to manage it. If feelings of stress aren’t dealt with, they can pile up and take a toll on our physical and mental health.

The 30th October to 3rd November is International Stress Awareness Week, which is hosted by International Stress Management Association. This year, the theme is ‘Beyond Stress Management: From Stigma to Solutions’, which aims to raise awareness of stress and its impact on mental health, while educating people about how to navigate these feelings, both in the workplace and their personal lives. You can get involved with the campaign by sharing your experiences of stress or by using the hashtag #stressawarenessweek on social media.

How to manage and prevent stress

  1. Recognise feelings of stress

When we’ve been feeling stressed for an extended period, this can start to have an impact on our mood and our behaviour. It can be helpful to be aware of the signs of stress so that we can recognise them before they add up to a larger issue. These can include:

Emotional symptoms:

  • Feeling anxious or worried
  • Feeling down or depressed
  • Heightened emotions (feeling agitated or tearful often)

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Catastrophising
  • Assuming we know what others think about us
  • Suicidal thoughts or thoughts about harming yourself
  • Negative thought cycles about yourself, others, or the world
  • Thinking worst case scenario

Physical symptoms:

  • Muscle tension and clenching your jaw
  • Headaches and blurred vision  
  • Chest pains and shortness of breath
  • Sweating more than usual
  • Sickness, constipation, diarrhoea
  • Tiredness
  • Brain fog

Behavioural problems:

  • Using substances more frequently, for example, alcohol and tobacco
  • Arguing with others
  • Pacing
  • Sighing more than usual
  • Isolating yourself
  • Taking on too much
  • No longer enjoying the things that you used to
  • Avoiding stressful situations, even when they need to be addressed
  • Lack of motivation

  1. Set your priorities

Between work and our personal lives, our to-do lists can feel overwhelming. It can be helpful to prioritise your tasks by writing them down and assessing which are urgent and which can wait until a later date. You could also set a time limit of how long you’re willing to spend on your to-do list each day, making sure that you leave room to relax and do things you enjoy so that you don’t burn out.

  1. Invest in self-care

Self-care means making time and effort to look after ourselves physically and mentally. This could look like getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy meals and exercising. It could also be an activity that allows us to pause and unwind, like meditation or breathing exercises. Anything that prioritises and supports our wellbeing is a form of self-care.

  1. Establish your boundaries

Sometimes we might find it difficult to say no to things, like an invitation or extra hours at work, but taking on too much can tip our stress levels over the edge. This is where boundaries come in; setting boundaries helps us to prioritise our own needs and by communicating our boundaries to others, we set clear expectations of ourselves so that they don’t ask too much of us. Read more about boundaries here.

  1. Be kind to yourself

When we’re stressed, it can be harder to stay on top of everything. We may not have the headspace to remember things that we usually would, or we may have less time so that our routine slips. While it can be tempting to become self-critical, try to show yourself compassion. Remember that no one is on their a-game all the time and ‘our best’ changes depending on what else is going on in our lives.

  1. Do something you enjoy

Making time to do something you enjoy can help you to unwind and de-stress. It will give you a break from negative feelings and allow you to focus on something more positive. You might like gardening, walking, seeing friends or watching TV. It doesn’t matter what the activity is, as long as you’re enjoying yourself, you’ll feel the benefits.

  1. Seek professional help

If you’re unable to manage feelings of stress, or you’re worried that you might be experiencing a mental health issue as a result of stress, it could be a good idea to seek professional help. At ieso we offer online text-based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which aims to challenge negative thought patterns and give you the tools you need to stay in control of your mental health. It’s free for some NHS patients – find out if you’re eligible here.

ieso Online Therapy
This blog has been written by a member of the clinical team at ieso.

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